Carlos Marmol was the most dominant reliever in baseball last year, yet Lou Piniella went with Kevin Gregg at closer to begin the season. Five months later Marmol has issued 52 walks and plunked 11 batters in 56.1 innings, yet Piniella handed him the closer job Tuesday after Gregg predictably struggled while posting a 4.47 ERA and blowing six saves in 29 chances.
Marmol has been nowhere near as good as he was last season because he’s rarely been able to throw the ball over the plate consistently, but remains extremely difficult to hit with 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a .163 opponents’ batting average. He’ll obviously need to stop walking a batter per inning to have success, but he’s just as clearly the Cubs’ best bet for a shutdown guy and Gregg was miscast in the role.
While the Cubs make the correct decision about 120 games too late, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* Texas’ vaunted catching depth has been a bust this year, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden have combined for a .664 OPS and Max Ramirez has missed time with a wrist injury at Triple-A. Saltalamacchia is now on the disabled list with an arm injury, so the Rangers’ search for help behind the plate brought them back to the greatest catcher in team history, Ivan Rodriguez.
For the cost of two marginal prospects the Astros sent Rodriguez back to where his Hall of Fame career began, but unfortunately for the Rangers he’s just a shell of his old self at the age of 37. Rodriguez’s numbers at the plate are almost identical to the poor totals posted by Texas catchers and he’s expected to merely split starts down the stretch with Teagarden. Not a bad stop-gap pickup, but don’t expect much.
* Having suppressed his service time long enough to push back arbitration and free agency, the Blue Jays recalled Travis Snider from the minors Tuesday. Snider had a modest .736 OPS in 188 plate appearances during previous stints in Toronto, but the 21-year-old has big-time power potential after blasting 33 homers and 39 doubles in 164 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Avoiding tons of strikeouts will be key.
* Speaking of suppressing service time, the Royals sent Alex Gordon to Triple-A on Tuesday despite the fact that the 25-year-old has logged 1,281 plate appearances spread over 314 games in the majors and we’re two weeks from rosters expanding. Gordon has hit just .227/.310/.333 in 22 games since returning from hip surgery, but it seems obvious that the move was made to push back his eventual free agency.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau sat out Tuesday’s game with an inner-ear infection and Jason Kubel exited early after fouling a ball off his leg … Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday before the bullpen blew what would’ve been his 13th win … Dustin Pedroia has left the Red Sox to be with his wife for the birth of their first child … Jake Peavy allowed three runs over four innings in a rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A … Aubrey Huff made his Tigers debut batting fifth and playing designated hitter Tuesday … Meanwhile, the Orioles replaced Aubrey Huff by calling up former top prospect Michael Aubrey from Triple-A … Joe Saunders (shoulder) is unlikely come off the disabled list when eligible Sunday … Anthony Swarzak will start Thursday with Brian Duensing pitching Saturday following Francisco Liriano’s trip to the DL.
NL Quick Hits: Stephen Strasburg isn’t expected to make his big-league debut this season … Conor Jackson’s rehab assignment has been put on hold following more complications from valley fever … General manager Doug Melvin admitted Tuesday that the Brewers are “working on something” for Bill Hall … Gaby Sanchez is back with the Marlins after getting just two at-bats during his previous call-up … Johnny Cueto is still listed as Friday’s starter despite indications that he’d be skipped in the rotation … Chris Young is hoping to be ready for spring training after having surgery Monday to shave fraying in his labrum … Nick Johnson (hamstring) was out of the lineup again Tuesday and expects to miss several more games … Mike Hampton was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained shoulder … Carlos Gonzalez batted leadoff Tuesday, with Dexter Fowler moving to the second spot … Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday for his fifth straight win.
The Dodgers have been mulling this for a long time, but they just announced that they plan on calling up top prospect Julio Urias. He’ll be making his major league debut against the Mets tomorrow evening in New York.
Urias is just 19 years-old, but he’s shown that he’s ready for the bigs. In eight Triple-A games this year — seven starts — he’s 4-1 with a 1.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 44/8 in 41 innings. He has tossed 27-straight scoreless innings to boot. While the Dodgers and Urias’ agent are understandably wary of giving the young man too much work too soon, he has nothing left to prove at Oklahoma City.
Urias turns 20 in August. Tomorrow night he will become the first teenager to debut in the majors since 2012 when Dylan Bundy, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Jurickson Profar each made their debuts.
Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated reports that Fox officials asked Vin Scully if he wanted to work the All-Star Game, be it calling the full game, doing an inning, making a guest appearance or whatever. Scully, though appreciative, said no thanks.
We’ve been over this, but for however much it might make people happy for Scully to make this kind of national appearance, there’s nothing in his history or in his apparent nature that would make such a thing appeal to Scully. For as much as an institution he has become, he still thinks of himself as an employee who calls Dodgers games, goes home and that is that. He has shown considerable discomfort, however politely he has communicated it, at being treated as something different or more special than that. And that’s before you remember that (a) it would be a totally different setup for him which would require a lot of extra work; and (b) the All-Star Break is a time when most baseball people take a couple of days off.
As I said the last time we discussed this, if baseball at large wants to give Scully some sort of national sendoff, the best bet would be for the powers that be to figure out how to get the final Dodgers games of the season nationally televised without blackout restrictions. That way we can all watch him doing his thing, in his element, for a final time without it being gimmicky.
We wrote recently that the hoodie Brad Ausmus was wearing during his May 16th ejection from a Tigers game was up for auction. Ausmus removed the hoodie during his little rant and draped it over home plate, fomenting both an ejection and a suspension. For what it’s worth, the Tigers are 6-2 since the incident, so go Ausmus Rage.
Anyway, the auction for the hoodie has closed and a winning bid declared. The bid: $5,010. The proceeds will go to the Tiny Tigers t-ball program funded by the Detroit Tigers Foundation and the Detroit Police Athletic League.
Who says rage is a negative emotion?
The day after Matt Harvey left the clubhouse without talking to the media following yet another bad start, Mets captain David Wright spoke to the press about the whole affair.
Despite column, after column, after column after column in which Harvey was portrayed as a prima donna, was called names and otherwise had his character impugned for not talking to the press, Wright, amazingly, found a different tone to strike. Specifically, he managed to note that (a) it would have been better form and would have shown some accountability for Harvey to talk to the media; while (b) simultaneously acknowledging that Harvey is going through a bad time like most players go through and that it’s understandable that he’d make a mistake in this regard. Which Wright calls a “lapse” which he doesn’t think will happen again and about which Wright will likely talk to Harvey.
Most amazingly, Wright does all of this without calling Harvey names, saying he’s a phony or bringing up minor incidents from years ago in an effort to disingenuously cast Harvey not talking to the media as just the latest in a series of serious and escalating transgressions and/or failures of moral and ethical worth. How he did that I have no idea. Unlike the learned members of the sporting press, Wright didn’t even go to college. Maybe he’s mistaken to think this situation is somewhat complicated and emotional rather than one of stark right and wrong? Clearly, Wright must be mistaken. Life really is that simple, after all.
Or maybe Wright was simply able to appreciate that another person’s struggles are not about him. And that the healthy first impulse when someone who is struggling makes a mistake is to have at least a modicum of empathy and understanding rather than enter into a competition with one’s colleagues to see who can roast that struggling person the hardest.
But again, maybe that’s just crazy talk from a person who didn’t go to journalism school.